Remembering Rhonda Ray

MEDA is broken-hearted by the passing of our colleague and friend, Rhonda Ray. With more than 25 years at the Maryland Department of Commerce, Rhonda served as the Managing Director of the Office of Policy, Research and Government Affairs. She became a MEDA member in 1999. Following her membership, she joined the Board of Directors as a Legislative Liaison in 2001 and became a founding Co-Chair of the Public Policy Awareness Committee in 2016. She was a graduate and supporter of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Carnegie Mellon University.

Please enjoy these stories and photos as we remember Rhonda’s amazing life and career.

Learn about MEDA’s Rhonda Ray Scholarship– click here. 


“A true friend is never truly gone. Their spirit lives on in the memories of those who loved them.” Rhonda was one of the very first people I met when I started with Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) back in 2001. She and I clicked right away and she remained a friend, trusted mentor and respected colleague for the last 20 years. My prayers and love to her family and all those that knew and loved her. – Kelly Robertson-Slagle, Director of Economic Development, Calvert County, MD   

Rhonda was a bright and shining star for me and many. – Richard Griffin, Director of Economic Development, The City of Frederick

Miss Rhonda Ray

Her passion was economic development.
Her method was legislation and policy.
Her goal was to make Maryland a great place to live, work and play.
Her approach epitomized integrity, style, leadership, and grace.
The consummate lady, our Miss Rhonda Ray.
Memory Eternal.

Renée M. Winsky, President & CEO, Leadership Maryland 

Rhonda was an amazing, lovely, smart human being. I loved her down-to-earth authenticity and the many chats we had. She will be missed deeply. – Trish Heidenreich, Director, Town of Bel Air Economic Development

Rhonda was professional, knowledgeable, and a friend to many. She will surely be missed by all. Prayers for her family. – Denise Beaver, Deputy Director, Carroll County Department of Economic Development 

Rhonda was so knowledgeable and so great to work with. My absolute condolences. – Allison Akers, MEDA Young Leaders Committee Chair 

Beautiful Rhonda walked in the Word, so I’d like to share the following: “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 – Tammi L. Thomas, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, TEDCO (Maryland Technology Development Corp.)

I met Rhonda on my first day of work at DBED, and I quickly noticed a calm sense of being and at the same time an intensity of her duties.  It was clear she knew her job and took her responsibilities seriously and at the same time brought collaboration and teamwork to getting her job done.  Everyone who has worked with Rhonda also knew the calmness became thinly veiled for the last 3 to 4 weeks of the legislative session. This was the only time we needed to treat Rhonda delicately, as we knew she was singularly focused on getting all of the Departments legislative initiates address before the end of the session.  Doing her work for as long as she did it, she outlast and out performed every Secretary she ever reported to. I personally will miss Rhonda immensely, she was a good person and left us way too early. – Bob Brennan, MEDA Past Present, Former Executive Director, MEDCO

On the MEDA Board, Rhonda’s presence always brought to me a sense of calm, serenity, and relaxation. She will be truly missed. – Danny Thompson, MEDA President and Executive Director, Somerset County Economic Development  

Rhonda’s knowledge and expertise in all things economic development was impressive over her long career. She was a real pro in the economic development world and will be sorely missed. – Dave Ryan, MEDA Past President, Executive Director, Salisbury-Wicomico Economic Development, Inc.

Rhonda was a good friend, a trusted colleague, and a wealth of information.  She was the consummate diplomat in dealing with others and was a model of grace and composure.  She was always a pleasure to be around, and I will miss her immensely. – Laurie Boyer Babb, MEDA Past President, Montgomery County Economic Development Manager

Rhonda always had a smile for everyone even when working through difficult issues and people. – Kim Clark, MEDA Past President, Executive Vice President, Baltimore Development Corporation

I know that all who had spent time with Rhonda will miss her more than we can imagine.   Rhonda knew more about economic development legislation in the past two and half decades than anyone in Maryland.  But while I first worked with her in a professional capacity, and have so much respect for that role, it is the person that I will miss.  Rhonda was a straight talker who did not suffer fools, but she had that amazing smile and laugh.  I learned early to not question her advice, and I treasured our friendship.  Many who learned the shocking and sad news this week have said the same thing:  “This is so unfair.”  Rhonda – I will miss my friend. – David S. Iannucci, MEDA Past President, President & CEO, Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation

For over 20 years, Rhonda spent the first 90 days of the year in her basement office of the Calvert Street building in Annapolis – a place she euphemistically called The Bunker. From this below-ground bunker, Rhonda was able to shine a light – to her colleagues and the members of the General Assembly. Her insight and critical analysis of legislative affairs served the people of Maryland well. May her light continue to shine. Forever. – Dominick Murray, Former Deputy Secretary, Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development 

I had the honor and pleasure of working closely with Rhonda on the MEDA Public Policy Committee. She continually impressed me with her intelligence, thoughtfulness and professionalism. She was very well regarded and respected by elected and appointed officials at the state and local level. Rhonda was also extremely patient with the complicated and sometimes frustrating world of public policy. Despite her calm and composed demeanor, she was a fierce advocate for Maryland and bringing more jobs and investment to the state. She will be sorely missed, and leaves a legacy for all of us to treasure and aspire to. – Sean Looney, Vice President – State Government Affairs at Comcast  

To my fellow Commerce Pirates, We lost one of our mates this week-Rhonda Ray, Managing Director of Policy, Research and Government Affairs. Her illness came quickly and her leaving us so soon, unexpectedly. Rhonda was an extraordinary person. An honors student at UMBC, a product of a great family and parents she was so proud of. I would meet with Rhonda and her team during the legislative session in the “bunker” in Annapolis, going over upcoming testimony that I would have to give-I know I made her a little anxious at times, she would hold her breath, saying ”Lord, please keep Mike in his lane and on script” — Rhonda I think I did it. No calls from the Gov’s office. Whenever I walked into a meeting with Rhonda or for that matter just passing her in the building, I would start singing the Beach Boys hit, “Help me Rhonda, help me”-and you always were there! Rhonda’s personality and style was always professional, prepared, self confident-she was more our mature pirate…..But she was a pirate and every year took off for the islands for some R&R-I don’t recall any pictures ever making it back to Baltimore but my guess is she represented the Commerce Pirates and our spirit well on these annual getaways. You’ll be greatly missed Double R. – Mike Gill, Former Secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce

I always admired and looked up to Rhonda as a great role model in the economic development community who was willing to step up and help when needed. It was a bonus that she was a beautiful woman of color who could easily hold her own with an air of grace, professionalism, and strength.  She had such a cool, calm, and collected way about her that was pragmatically refreshing. I’m so sorry to know that she is gone, her presence will be noticeable missed. My prayers and condolences go out to her family during this difficult time. – Kiesha Haughton